"We love and accept ourselves when we are born. We don't make judgments about which parts of ourselves are good and which parts are bad. We dwell in the fullness of our being, living in the moment, and expressing ourselves freely.
...we learn from the people around us. They tell us how to act, when to eat, when to sleep...
We learn which behaviors bring us acceptance and which bring us rejection...if we get a prompt response or if our cries go unanswered.
We learn to trust...or to fear the people around us...
We learn which qualities are acceptable in our environment and which are not.
All of this distracts us from living in the moment and keeps us from expressing ourselves freely."
(The Dark Side of the Light Chasers - Page 3)
Early on in my career, I sat on a bench and admired a group of children sitting in the sandbox of a preschool playground. There they were chatting away as they played; living in the moment and expressing themselves freely.
I looked around at the adults who were sitting or standing around supervising this outdoor play, and it occurred to me how few adults I had met who seemed to know how to truly support a child in this type of natural, joyful existence.
Over the years, I met children who were not allowed to live in the moment nor permitted to express themselves freely. They were told "no" or "not now" whenever they had a spontaneous desire for something, or whenever an idea occurred to them that they wanted to act upon.
Other children were unable to express themselves freely due to developmental disorders, and those children often began to engage less and their living-in-the-moment types of behaviors were frequently performed in isolation.
I met some adults who strove to control their environment (and the children in it). I saw how their attempts to keep control over the children were met with either rebellion or silent compliance; with crying and temper tantrums or little faces looking blank, beaten or depressed.
As a young teacher, I remember having the desire to give children more room to be themselves, however, when I tried to give them a foot, they often took a yard. It was as if they simply could not behave appropriately unless they were fearful.
Unfortunately, I ended up feeling powerless, because I was unable and unwilling to attempt to frighten children into behaving by being a strict, straight-faced, policing-type presence.
I am so grateful that after many years of experience I am now able to lead children in a way which they respond to so positively. I encourage children to express themselves freely. Actually, teaching them to refuse (without acting out) is high on my list of goals. Hearing children refuse no longer makes me feel powerless. Instead, when it happens, I take that opportunity to try to see things from their perspective, and do my best to honor their choice. By doing that, I am reinforcing their communicative attempt, as well as their feelings of competency and confidence.
A negative (refusing) has been transformed into a positive (freedom of expression) by a simple shift in my own consciousness. I have learned to handle each child's attempt to express something with acceptance, respect and trust. I believe this is the key to my (or should I say "our") success.
Over and over again, day after day, I see the children I interact with step up to the plate with abundant living-in-the-minute joy and a sense of pride that comes from being encouraged to express their thoughts, wants, refusals and ideas. It's such an awesome thing to witness!
I truly love my job :-)
- Noelle Michaels, MA, CCC-SLP, LDT-C
Bilingual Speech Language Pathologist
Special Educator & Learning Specialist